Don't hate the Kramer, Hate the Game

Generally speaking, we stand-up comics are a sorry bunch of louts. Sure, you may think otherwise, may even think it downright noble for us to get up on the stage and make people laugh, make people forget about their worries. But you are wrong.

Because we are not doing this for you, we are doing it for us. There are a handful of comics who start out with the sole goal of making people laugh, but after you've been doing that for a while, that idea disappears and it becomes a matter of well, when the fuck is my payday already? Every time.

And the concept of a stand-up comedian as a role-model? That's just laughable. We drink too much, we smoke too much, we swear too much, we gossip too much and we think about advancing only ourselves too much.

If there is nobility to be found in the world of stand-up comedy, however, it lies in our strict code of ethics. There are certain things in stand-up that are just not done, rules by which all comics must adhere.

That is why the racist tirade of Michael Richard -- aka Cosmo Kramer -- at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood last Friday was so shocking and offensive. Because by going-off half-cocked and hurling the "n" word at audience members in an irate fit, Richards violated the very first and most sacred rule of stand-up comedy: You don't steal another comic's material.

That was my fucking bit, Kramer. Ask anyone in the local scene here and they'll tell you, "Oh, yeah, that shit where the comic throws out the 'n' bomb over and over again, and then screams, 'That's what happens when you interrupt the white man!' That's Adam Cayton-Holland. I saw that fool drop that bit at the Squire like two months ago. Hilarious!"

I even started closing with that at the Comedy Works, Kramer, okay? That's a pretty good club. And now every time I go out there and do that bit — which I wrote — people are just going to think, "Who's this asshole stealing that hilarious routine that Kramer does?" Thanks a million, Cosmo.

Truth be told, though, the bit wasn't exactly mine. It's an old Bud Abbott and Lou Costello routine. They were trying to write a follow-up after the runaway success of their famous "Who's On First?" bit. As the story goes, Costello went out on a bender with Marlene Dietrich, and woke up one week later in a park in St. Louis completely naked, using the entire script for "Who Be the Crazy Fucking N*$#@ Interrupting Me?" as a pillow.

So it was Abbottand Costello's bit, but the idea to bring it back into usage today in 2006, and to modernize it so it would resonate, well, that was all mine, Kramer. And you took that from me.

I'll bounce back. Because unlike some former, washed-up Seinfeld stars I know, I'm still fertile, still capable of writing good bits. You, not so much, Kramer. You have to steal them. And because you did that and got caught so red-handed, you're finished in this business.

And it serves you right, you fucking thief. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun